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solid writing
skilled art
historical bonus 2
total score 6
Mendocino Funnies
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REVIEW SCORE 8
Only Printing / October, 1975 / 36 pages / The Mendocino Review
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In the late 1960s and early '70s, small communities dotting the Mendocino County coast in California became the new home for a sprawling counterculture comprised of artists, musicians, poets, and other free spirits. Most of these new residents hailed from San Francisco, where it seemed like the Summer of Love ('67) had turned into the Slum of Drugs and Crime ('69). Land in Mendocino was cheap after the boom century of logging was over, the coastline vistas were still gorgeous and pot was the most abundant native crop aside from the redwood trees (what was left of them). What more could a hippie or bohemian from the Bay Area ask for?

Many of these urban refugees embraced the popular "back-to-the-land" movement, establishing homesteads in the hills and backwoods and turning away from the rampant consumerism of the '70s (a decade tagged by Tom Wolfe as "the Me Decade" when it was barely half over).

The progression of these events naturally led to an underground comic book in 1975 called Mendocino Funnies. It featured local artists and writers with local comics and stories about life in contemporary Mendocino. The book is no masterpiece by a long stretch, but it is surprisingly good and often funny. The most talented artist in Mendocino Funnies is John Chamberlin, who did the front cover art, the best-illustrated story, and was the poster artist for local bands (he is still an active artist and musician in Mendocino).

About 1/3 of the Mendocino Funnies is devoted to Mervin Gilbert (Mervinius) and his "Life in the Northwest Nowhere" comic strips, which aren't beautifully illustrated but do provide some of the funniest stuff in the book. They capture the mindset of the counterculture and some of the local flavor in Mendocino as well as anything.

Among the many topical issues referenced in Mendocino Funnies is the destruction of old-growth redwood forests by lumber companies like the Pacific Lumber Company. In 1850, old-growth redwood forest covered more than 2,000,000 acres of the California coast, much of it in the counties of Humboldt and Mendocino. By the time Redwood National Park was created in 1968, 90% of the original redwood trees—the tallest trees on Earth, with lifespans of 500 to 2,000 years—had already been logged. That percentage has grown to 96% today.

Mendocino Funnies is one of those undergrounds that captures a little bit of what it was like to live in a particular region of the country in the mid '70s, especially as a member of the counterculture. For that, it is well worth a read and just might give you few laughs.

Nicholas Wilson, a long-time local photographer, published an exquisite book with beautiful photography about Mendocino in the 1970s, including several photos featuring Mendocino Funnies artist John Chamberlin and some that document the tragic state of affairs with the old-growth redwoods at the time. Mendocino in the Seventies is available for sale online and can also be read in its entirety (in full screen mode) on the linked page. Highly recommended viewing (and purchasing)!
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keyline
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HISTORICAL FOOTNOTES:
It is currently unknown how many copies of this comic book were printed. It has not been reprinted.


COMIC CREATORS:
John Chamberlin - 1, 26-31, 33-34
Gary Louzon - 2, 3-6 (art, photo)
Libby Hopkins - 3-6 (script, model)
Mervinius - 7-16, 36
Kay Rudin - 17-20
Chuck Hathaway - 21, 35
Michael Equine - 21
David Coulson - 21
Sam Waldman - 21
Larry Fuente - 22
Ronny Laing - 23-25
Max Efroym - 32